How LK Advani and Jaswant Singh saw Jinnah

At a rally, Amit Shah asked: “Does anyone feel Jinnah is great?”. He then said, “No one.” However, LK Advani and Jaswant Singh were two former BJP leaders who publicly stated their admiration of him in the past.
I asked if Jinnah hated Hindus. “Wrong. Totally wrong”, Jaswant Singh replied. “His principal disagreement was with the Congress Party … he had no problems whatsoever with Hindus”(Getty Images) PREMIUM
I asked if Jinnah hated Hindus. “Wrong. Totally wrong”, Jaswant Singh replied. “His principal disagreement was with the Congress Party … he had no problems whatsoever with Hindus”(Getty Images)
Updated on Nov 20, 2021 07:53 PM IST
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Last Saturday, at a rally in Azamgarh, home minister Amit Shah asked the gathering: “Does anyone feel Jinnah is great?” Then, without a pause, he answered his own question: “No one”. I’m afraid he is wrong. I have no doubt millions of our countrymen would want to say yes — even if few, in today’s circumstances, would do so publicly. But I shall write about two who did say it publicly. They are revered former leaders of the minister’s party. It would be salutary to recall their view of Jinnah.

First, LK Advani, a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president, one of Shah’s illustrious predecessors as home minister, and the party’s original iron man. In June 2005, in comments in the visitor’s book at Jinnah’s mausoleum, he wrote: “My respectful homage to this great man.” Recalling Sarojini Naidu’s description of Jinnah as an “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”, Advani proceeded to call Jinnah’s Constituent Assembly speech of August 11, 1947 “really a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state in which, while every citizen would be free to practice his own religion, the state shall make no distinction between one citizen and another on grounds of faith”.

I would say Advani’s admiration of Jinnah was most obvious when he wrote: “There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history but there are very few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual”.

Now, whilst Advani’s views are based on his personal knowledge and understanding, the second BJP stalwart I want to cite, former foreign, finance and defence minister Jaswant Singh, spent five years researching Jinnah and, in 2009, published a 658-page biography called Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence. He asked me to interview him before its launch. I did two, the only pre-publication interviews. Two days later, he was expelled from the BJP.

I asked if he thought Jinnah was a great man: “Oh yes, because he created something out of nothing and single-handedly stood against the might of the Congress Party and against the British who didn’t like him … Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian. Why don’t we recognise that? Why don’t we see why he called him that?”

Singh revealed he felt personally drawn to Jinnah. “I was attracted by the personality … if I was not drawn to the personality I wouldn’t have written the book.” He then explained what he admired. “I admired certain aspects of his personality. His determination and the will to rise. He was a self-made man. Mahatma Gandhi was the son of a Diwan. All these (people) — Nehru and others — were born to wealth and position. Jinnah created for himself a position. He carved in Bombay, a metropolitan city, a position for himself. He was so poor he had to walk to work”.

I asked if Jinnah hated Hindus. “Wrong. Totally wrong”, Jaswant Singh replied. “His principal disagreement was with the Congress Party … he had no problems whatsoever with Hindus”.

So, I asked in conclusion, does this mean he doesn’t subscribe to the popular demonisation of Jinnah? “Of course, I don’t. To that I don’t subscribe … I think we have misunderstood him because we needed to create a demon … we needed a demon because in the 20th century the most telling event in the subcontinent was the partition of the country.”

However, the most powerful moment of these two half-hour interviews was when Jaswant Singh spoke about India’s treatment of its Muslim citizens. “Look into the eyes of the Muslims that live in India and see the pain with which they live. To which land do they belong? We treat them as aliens.” And then he pointedly added: “Every Muslim that lives in India is a loyal Indian and we must treat them as so”.

Now let me end with a question for today’s BJP: How could you have forgotten about Advani and Jaswant Singh?

Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story

The views expressed are personal

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    Karan Thapar is a super-looking genius who’s young, friendly, chatty and great fun to be with. He’s also very enjoyable to read.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021